Do you know if the concept of armor value (thickness or "equivalent protection") was normalized across the games from the beginning to the end or did each game make up its own values as it went along?
Yes and no, I suppose. Yes in that the entire system is an imaginary scale invented for the fictional background of the Wing Commander universe... no in that balancing was done, by necessity, on a game-by-game basis... it's a lot more important for the armor numbers to work right inside one game than to be broadly applicable to everything that has come before.
Still, that does seem to have been the overall attempt -- the armor numbers increase over time in rough parity. Of course, there's the problem of setting versus production timeline - Privateer becomes something of an odd man out, since its numbers are scaled (if that's a fair term) to those of the developed-at-the-same-time Wing Commander II rather than the set-at-the-same-time Wing Commander III.
To be honest, it always bugged me the Paradigm was classed a destroyer it's so incredibly unimpressive from what we know. Especially if we consider that its counterpart in Priv, the Kamekh is a corvette. The Paradigm always felt like a corvette to me.
As Chris noted (and I think others missed), the Privateer manual actually calls the Kamekh a destroyer (it's in the maneuvers guide - the specifications simply call it a capital ship). Still, there must have been some internal debate about the Privateer capital ships before the final decision was made. The game's internals actually refer to the Paradigm as 'FRIGATE'.
Hmmm... I see your point. Perhaps that's why we never see any more of them.
That isn't much of an argument, as the escort ships rarely (if ever?) make the transition from one game to another. In fact, the Paradigm may be the rare exception, as it appears in both Privateer and Origin FX.
I get the feeling it was a prototype... perhaps the actual model was supposed to have thicker armor and more conventional weaponry.
This doesn't pass the 'huh?' test, meaning that it's possible but there's absolutely no reason to think so. There's no indication anywhere that the Paradigm is some sort of prototype; rather, they're several years old (the description in Origin FX is dated 2664), they appear in the 'Gemini Sector' civilian guide to the sector and they're a fairly common sight in the regio (Paradigms - sometimes two at once - can randomly appear at thirty-odd places in Gemini, not counting plot missions).
Yeah in Gemini. Besides Perry, Gemini didn't seem to high a priority to anyone.
I guess that depends what you mean by priority. We know there was fighting there: the Privateer manual says the last major battle was in 2658 and we see an apparent Kilrathi fleet deployed there in Righteous Fire.
... but more importantly, we know that the entire region only exists in the first place because of the war. The Confederation explored and entrenched Gemini specifically to help counter the Kilrathi threat (think of the United States' desire to secure California in the 19th century in order to keep it away from the British).